Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Southern Living and Living Stones

More and more these days, I'm finding myself heading outside to our backyard to write. As some of you may remember, we moved to Tennessee last summer (exactly one year ago today, in fact)! Hard to believe that a year has gone by. In some ways, it seems like a blink of an eye. And in others, it feels like it's been much longer. To all my Colorado buddies...I still miss you so much...

This past year has been a good one, but it hasn't been without its rough spots. It's nurtured a lot of growth, there have been a lot of adjustments too, and it's been an affirming journey in a deeper understanding of how God weaves lives together. He's the Master Builder, and as my family and I have "built" our lives here in Nashville, trying our best to follow His blueprint, we've also had a tangible reminder of that building process in a "backyard project" (those words strike terror in the heart of husband's across the country!) that we started shortly after we moved in.

Over the past few months, we've doubted whether it would ever be finished! There were certainly some unexpected "whoa" moments along the way. And even some "Uh oh...that doesn't work" looks exchanged. But after lots of hard work, coordination, and with lots of different and very talented people contributing to the project--each in their area of giftedness--the final product is complete (or nearly, just don't tell my husband about the planters I bought for the deck)!

I thought I'd shared some quick "along the way" photos, then...the finished product far below!

When we first moved in, our backyard looked like this:

We had a deck. It was a nice deck, but it was lonely. So we added some rails, and a fence to the yard, and my husband built me an arbor swing (sweet man!)...

And then the backyard looked like this (oh yeah, and add a table and some chairs from Lowe's):

Then we hired Jason (a fabulously talented stone mason) to build a flagstone patio for us (you wouldn't want to have seen the flagstone patio that Joe and Tamera would've built).
And, in various stages, it looked like this:

Brownies devoured! (You must feed the workers!)

And so forth! You get the idea.

Then we hired Biff, a landscaper who took our ideas and made them so much better (kind of like editors do with my books).

And now, with spring sprung and everything in bloom, our no-longer-lonely backyard looks like this:

Each time I head out here to write, to brainstorm a next scene, or just sit and enjoy the quiet, I think of this verse from I Peter 2:4,5:

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Like living stones, we're being built into a spiritual house. We're not building it. We're BEING built. Three things stand out to me as I look back at these pictures and then at this verse...

First, as the masons built the wall (that I'm sitting on above), I was fascinated by how they would study each stone, and then break it, hammering at it until the rock was just the right shape to fit its place in the wall. In the same way, God is shaping us to be what He desires us to be, and sometimes that process just plain hurts! No way around it. But the reward of being centered in the middle of His will--whatever that means--and the gift of reflecting His likeness in greater and greater degree, is worth every blow.

And secondly, this was one messy job! No way around it. First they tore up the backyard, digging and scraping and gouging. Then they hauled in all the tools, etc... For several weeks, it was a mud pit. Either that or a demolition course. In the same way, my life is like that. I'm like that. I'm a mess. And I make a mess of so many things. But it's heartening to realize that God can take all those messes--both the messes we're responsible for, and the others that perhaps we're not directly responsible for but that have still tarnished our lives--and bring good from them.

And not just good things, but great things!

Lastly, it took a lot of different people with various talents, and levels of talent, to complete this project. Likewise, God has gifted each of us in unique ways. God created you for a purpose, and with specific talents that are unique to you, to your personality, to your background and your experiences. It took me 40+ years to realize that one of the gifts God has given me is a love for words. For stringing them together into stories that, prayerfully, lift Him up and draw others to Him. Who knew that this "gift" from Him was inside me all those years, lying dormant. Being cultivated, being nurtured. If you don't think you've yet discovered that giftedness unique to you, ask Him to reveal it. Today. And then hang on for the journey ahead! ;)

As I look back over this first year in Nashville, and flip through pictures of this landscaping project, I'm reminded of the ways God has grown me. While I also see so many areas in which I still need to surrender more fully to Him. But like a living stone, I'm a work in progress in the Potter's Hand.

See you on the wall! :)


  1. Your "new" backyard is lovely. It gives me hope that mine will come together also. We're in the midst of renovations on our place. Right now it seems that all I see is destruction & I'm ready to see some new going up.

  2. I am so glad that I wandered over to your blog. It's been a while as God has been working through a BIG mess, not of my own doing (that I can recall) yet refining me and molding me none the less. Your words brought tears of hope and joy amid my physical and emotional pain. Thank you dear sister for sharing this timely message.

    I didn't know you left the Rockies!! I love the Nashville area, as I used to visit it about twice a year for a while.

    I hope our paths cross again SOON, girl!!

  3. Tammy, what a great analogy! I love what the Lord is building in your life! And your new "office" is just gorgeous.


  4. Tamera,
    I scrolled down to grab another address and I must have hit your blog address instead as it popped up. I am sooooo glad that it did!! I ended up reading your entry today and cannot tell you how timely your analogy was!! Thank you for the gift ...a scripture that remains one closest to my heart. I sat on my own small patio tonight with two of Rachel's friends...serendipity. Listening to them and to their stories better informed me of my own daughter's journey and that of these girls. It also helped me see how I can better be used in their lives and how the Lord "breaks" the stones in just the right spots to accomplish His better plan. Wonderful analogy!
    And....forget the coffee house, woman! I am coming to sit in that gorgeous backyard!!!

  5. What a wonderful backyard! I loved the words and scripture in your blog today. I miss you more than you could ever year since you moved and there is still an emptiness inside my heart. I sure do miss our lunches, and shopping thru Wal-Mart together...I just plain miss you! Someday I will come and see your outside office!

  6. Your yard is beautiful. And so is the analogy. I, for one, am so glad you discovered the gift God indeed has given you to powerfully communicate through the written word.

    I love your books and I'm honored that I get to be one of the CFBA reviewers for From a Distance!

  7. That is GORGEOUS, Tamera! Thanks for the photos and the thoughts--I'm enjoying both! :)

  8. My mother is an older school teacher who's had a rough school year. She teaches in a low income school district where there are constant problems with both the students and parents. Very few even know she's a cancer survivor and I'm amazed by her strength and ability to overcome the struggles thrown her way.

    School's out now and my mother and I share the love of reading. She asked me for a book recommendation since she finally has a moment to just "breathe". I told her about your fountain creek books and she was able to check 2 of them out at the library.

    I just wanted to share that she has fallen in love with your books. She said she is having trouble putting them down (the sign of a great book!) They have helped de-stress her, so for that, I want to say a big THANK YOU!! No one likes to see their Mom discouraged so I'm thrilled to see how happy your books are making her.

    Thanks Tamera!

  9. What a beautiful yard! How fun to have an arbor swing. I wandered over to your blog because of the blog tour.

    I hadn't ever read your books before, but I really enjoyed From a Distance. How pleasant to discover that I've recently just moved down the road from you! I can so relate to building a new life here in Nashville. We're just beginning, but I hope that we can be as established and comfortable here as you are in a year.

    Blessings to you!

  10. I finally just got your new book, From A Distance today! So excited! Cant wait to read it.

  11. Ohh what a beautiful post. Not just the pics of the backyard(which are beautiful) but the post itself. Thank you for it. I needed that today/tonight.

    Thank you,

  12. Just gorgeous! Your words and your back yard!

  13. Thanks for the kind words, friends.

    Melinda, I’m praying you through the renovation, girl! Hang on!

    Jennifer, I’m so glad you found these words a comfort and I hope our paths cross soon again too! Will you be at the ACFW Conference in September? I will be!

    Thanks, Deb, I’m LOVING this new outdoor office!

    Karen, neat how God gave you a glimpse of your daughter through the eyes of her friends. He’s definitely at work there. Looking forward to connecting soon!

    Suzi, wonderful to chat yesterday! It helps erase the miles. Praying for your beautiful quilts! And if anyone’s looking for a custom quilter… Suzi’s your gal!

    Linda, thanks for the review of From a Distance and for your kind words.

    Flchen1, thanks for that and hope your summer is in full bloom!

    Larrie, what you shared about your mom really touched my heart. Please give your mom a hug for me and tell her that I’m praying for her. I love your love for her. It came across so clearly in your comments. Mothers are so precious!

    Lynetta, hope your transition to Nashville is going well. Do tell! Hoping you enjoy the fireflies and magnolias. They’re touches of heaven to this girl. Though…I still miss the Rockies at times. ;)

    Rebekah, hope you’re enjoying FAD!

    WendyK, God’s Word is amazing, isn’t it? Living and active! I can read the same verse over and over and—depending on my life circumstances and the condition of my heart —can come away with something new and fresh each time.

    Rel, thanks friend! Hope your summer’s in full (and enjoyable) swing!

    I’m praying for each of you right now, asking God to continue to bring to completion in you the work He’s begun. Same for me too! It's a journey, for sure!


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